13 Things You Didn’t Know About Word: Comparing Documents

It’s enough to make a grown man cry. You receive a second version of a document from a colleague, with no indication in the covering email about what’s changed. So what do you do? Print out both documents and pore over them till you’re cross-eyed?

No need: Word has a built-in document comparison feature that will highlight the differences for you. It’s a subsection of the Reviewing feature, which will be covered in a separate article.

So here’s what you do:

Step 1Go to the Review menu, and then select Compare. The option you then want is Compare, not Combine.

Select the original article, and then select the version you wish to compare it with, and click OK.

I always like to click on Show Source Documents—> Show Both, as I find that gives me a better overall picture of what’s going on. But everyone’s different, so play around with the different options until you find the one you like best.

Step 2As you can see (Step 3), the changes will be indicated quite clearly. You then have the choice of whether or not to save the list of comparisons. I rarely do because I find that just seeing them on the screen enables me to focus right in on the changed bits, which I can then evaluate straight away.

Step 3This is a great time-saver when you’re trying to determine what exactly has changed between two versions of a really long document. If you’re an editor or proof-reader, I’d say this tool is a must-have for sure – and the good news is, if you use Word, you already have it!